Think zebras.
August 2, 2012 9:25 AM   Subscribe

In what might be the strangest location possible, I have come into possession of an actual zebra skin (with provenance dating to 1976). I don't really want it. What can I do with it?

Backstory: my husband's grandmother recently moved from a farmhouse in a rural area to a trailer here in our tiny remote town in northern Canada up by the 60th parallel (location in profile). The trailer was not new and had multiple previous owners who have long since moved out of the country. At any rate, the attached shed was filled with abandoned items. One of the totally random items was this actual authentic zebra skin, which I suppose could be a rug if it had a backing. It has a tail and ears and everything. I was surprised that it was brown and not black, but it has been a long time since I've seen a zebra. It was given to us with a fair amount of insistence, probably because his grandmother had no idea what to do with it either.

So, in general I'm not impressed with game hunting (or any hunting that doesn't use the whole animal), but here I am with a zebra hide. That has provenance from Kenya. Which I don't want (and actually find a bit creepy). We aren't obligated to keep it, it was just given to us to get it out of the shed.

I'm not specifically looking to profit from it, but it was a whole animal once and it seems weird to throw it in the trash. So is there anything useful I can do with it that doesn't involve throwing it out (which is plan C)? Sell it on eBay? If so, how would I value it? It seems to have a small amount of damage (where the hair has worn off in small parts). Can I ship something like this internationally, or are there rules against it?

I definitely wouldn't mind donating it if that's an option (is there an organization that might want it?) but my only stipulation is that I wouldn't want to be out shipping costs (which would be quite high given my remote location).

posted by mireille to Grab Bag (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Sell it to me? Memail me
posted by agregoli at 9:28 AM on August 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

Your local Elementary or Middle school science teacher would love you forever.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:35 AM on August 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Is there anything like Craigslist or Freecycle where you are - even just a print PennySaver type flyer? I imagine someone would be happy to pick that up from you if it was offered for free (or even offered for a small amount of money).
posted by moxiequz at 9:37 AM on August 2, 2012

Natural museaum?
posted by stormpooper at 9:41 AM on August 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

oh sorry, wanted to add a cultural museaum, a zoo (maybe)?
posted by stormpooper at 9:42 AM on August 2, 2012

Best answer: It can be very hard to move stuff like this internationally, sale or not. A friend of mine specialises in the legal paperwork required to move things like animal skins and elephant tusks. You can memail me for details if you want.

I would not sell it on eBay or similar. If you think it might be worth something contact a reputable auction house. Provenance tends to be quite important. Quite apart from anything there may be a risk that it is not actually legal to sell in your jurisdiction.

Alternatively contact your local, reputable natural history museum. They may want it and may be willing to pay for it. Or they may not. At any rate, they should be able to give you some guidance if you call in good faith.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:43 AM on August 2, 2012

They are surprisingly expensive ($1500!). Why not try to sell it to a company that sells these, like the one I linked to?
posted by Houstonian at 9:44 AM on August 2, 2012

You should probably contact the US Fish and Wildlife service to be sure that it's legal to do anything with it first. Trading in certain furs is illegal, even if the furs are antiques.

I worked next to a USF&W office in San Diego for a while. The guy showed us a crazy vintage leopard fur coat that somebody had been trying to sell on Craigslist. They caught wind and confiscated it immediately.
posted by rouftop at 9:46 AM on August 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: sell it...aannnd...don't feel guilty...or at least not more guilty than you do about leather...zebras aren't endagered at's all the animals that eat them that are.
as for condition...the 'hair rubbed off' seems in a natural place (around the hips, knees, etc)...i wouldn't mention it unless the hair is falling out all over...let the pictures do the talking...
posted by sexyrobot at 9:47 AM on August 2, 2012

Don't throw it away! We had some items like that on display in my university's biology labs. Give it to a nearby school with little budding scientists who will love it.
posted by saltwater at 9:52 AM on August 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Check it's OK to sell it first, it's illegal in a lot of places to sell even parts of some animals even if they aren't endangered.

If it's OK to sell, sell it without regret, try an auction house of some sort that deals in antiques as you have the provenance.

If you can't sell it see if you can donate it to a museum or school.
posted by wwax at 9:57 AM on August 2, 2012

Best answer: rouftop: "You should probably contact the US Fish and Wildlife service"

This is good advice for someone who lives in the US. For the Canadian who asked the question, perhaps they should contact the Canadian Wildlife Service (a department of Environment Canada) instead.
posted by Grither at 9:57 AM on August 2, 2012 [6 favorites]

(i mean you should def check first, but they are as common as horses...) you might try calling a local leather supplier for advice too...
posted by sexyrobot at 10:02 AM on August 2, 2012

Response by poster: All good answers so far, thanks! I'll definitely check with Canadian Wildlife as well as the provincial Fish & Wildlife (or as they're known up here by the locals, "Fin and Fur").

I think that agregoli gets first chance at it, providing it can be shipped across the border, because MEFITE (of course!). I appreciate the "don't feel guilty" comments, because I also have crouton-petting tendencies and this was right up there on the "poor thing" scale.

If I can't send it internationally (even with papers), then I'll see if I can sell it within Canada. If not, or if it gets super-complicated, I can see if the nearest museum might want it. But the nearest museum/city is an 8 hour drive away, so if they do want it, they'll have to wait until my next visit!
posted by mireille at 10:11 AM on August 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you feel like giving it away, try looking for a theater company somewhere. They might take it for use as a prop in some future play.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:47 AM on August 2, 2012

museums are probably a blind alley...this is useful as a rug, but not for taxidermy/mounting...and, like i said, super common (for perspective, the leather store i used to go to in NYC had a stack of these a foot thick)
agregoli, this could benefit from some mounting to last longer...the simplest (and IMO, most elegant) solution is to mount it to thick black felt...single stitch all around the edge...let the felt stick out from underneath about 1 1/2 inches and cut the edge (of the felt) with pinking shears (this is a pretty standard mount for animal rugs and easy to replace if it wears out)
posted by sexyrobot at 10:51 AM on August 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Even if a natural history museum doesn't need it for the collection, a children's museum or nature center would probably be able to use it for a hands-on kids' display. I wouldn't write off museums/educational nonprofits out of hand.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:46 AM on August 2, 2012

yeah, any kind of organization that does programs for children about animals would probably take it (nature centers, zoos, museums). The place I work has literally rooms full of this kind of stuff, much of it donated, and we use it in programming.
posted by geegollygosh at 12:35 PM on August 2, 2012

sell it...aannnd...don't feel guilty...or at least not more guilty than you do about leather...zebras aren't endagered at's all the animals that eat them that are.

You should get your facts straight, sexyrobot. Two of the three zebra species are endangered. One of these species, Grévy's zebras, are among the most endangered mammals in Africa, and it's quite possible that mireille has a Grévy's skin since the hunting ban wasn't enacted until 1977.

If you sell it but have moral qualms about profiting off of wildlife poaching, here are some nonprofit organizations that would put the money to good use:

Lewa Wildlife Conservancy (holds the largest single populaton of Grévy's zebras in the world)

Grevy's Zebra Trust

Friends of Nairobi National Park

David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
posted by désoeuvrée at 1:33 PM on August 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

International & interprovincial trade of animal products is regulated in Canada by the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act, or WAPPRIITA (now there's an acronym.) This is Canada's method of complying with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, an international treaty drawn up in the mid-70s to curb the international trade in endangered animal products. Certain species of zebra are regulated by this act (Grevy's zebra, Hartman's mountain zebra, Cape mountain zebra), but not all species. And if a species is regulated by the act, then my reading of the Act and the accompanying regulations is that you need a permit to export it from Canada. There's a hodgepodge of exemptions and caveats and subclauses involved, though, so you should by no means trust my reading of the act.

As noted above, Environment Canada is in charge of this stuff in Canada. I would try contacting the enforcement branch, specifically, and asking them what to do.

By the way, I love that the guy who wrote out the export form in Kenya started to write "Elephant", then crossed it out and wrote "Zebra" instead.
posted by Johnny Assay at 2:03 PM on August 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For what it's worth - because I think it will end up being relevant to your effort to sell it - I'm pretty sure this is the skin from a Plains zebra (Equus burchelli).

The conservation status of this particular species of zebra is listed as "Least Concern," the lowest rung of the conservation ladder.

Here is a PDF with the ID notes that I used to double-check your skin. It is from the US Fish & Wildlife Service's Forensics Laboratory which is geared towards smuggling and that sort of thing.
posted by ErikaB at 5:02 PM on August 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

There are probably quite a few of these skins floating around:
One problem was that the Kenyatta family itself was implicated in both poaching and ivory exports. Margaret Kenyatta, Kenyatta’s daughter, was chairman of the United African Company, one of at least 10 companies exporting ivory despite the ban. Ivory could earn Ksh300 (US$36) per kilogram, making one elephant worth thousands of dollars. Other valuable items included zebra pelts (5,000 of these animals were shot illegally within 320 miles of Nairobi in six months during 1975) and colobus monkey skins. In 1975, two men were found in possession of 26,000 colobus monkey skins (more than the total remaining population today).
I can understand your wanting to get rid of it.
posted by unliteral at 7:34 PM on August 2, 2012

sorry...plains zebra is all I've ever heard about/seen for sale...and they are literally common as horses or deer...that's what 'least concern' means. also, OBVIOUSLY not a Grevy's...see the ears, or any of the others you mentioned...coloration, stripe pitch, nose length.
Yeah, I get it...poaching is horrible... but so is allowing a species who no longer has predators (yes, mostly due to our activity) to overpopulate and starve due to under-hunting (and no, I don't hunt, but I don't carry a chip on my shoulder against those that do, long as it's done responsibly)
posted by sexyrobot at 9:52 PM on August 2, 2012

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